MM Owner And Family Explore Tanzania
Baobab tree and elephants in the Tarangire National Park. Mark Gunlogson photo
The four boys standing on the side of the road were a sure indication that we had left the hustle and bustle of Arusha and that we were now well into Maasai country. As part of the passage into manhood and becoming a Maasai warrior, boys aged 12 – 16 undergo a circumcision ritual that includes their bodies being painted black. As was the case with the boys on the side of the road, these boys then have about four-six months where they stay in their own hut and wander around together learning how to use bow and arrow; meanwhile, the family prepares for a big celebration for the boys to become warriors. Once through these rites of passage the young warriors can wear the traditional red of the Maasai men, have dreadlocks, or paint their hair red.
Looking out over the Tarangire. Mark Gunlogson photo
As we continue our drive into the Great Rift Valley, thatched-roofed mud huts, known as bomas, dot the landscape. Longtime Mountain Madness guide and friend, Ben Mality, pointed out that the number of huts indicated how many wives the patriarch of the family had, with each getting their own boma. Ben explains that the number of wives one has is based on the number of cows one possesses.
Ben driving in the park. Mark Gunlogson photo
The bomas’ backyards are a bit bigger here than what we are used to in the Northwest and in places push up against the splendid National Parks that we will be visiting during our trip here, beginning with Tarangire, which is known for a high concentration of elephants. After driving about 2.5 hours from Arusha we arrived and were met by a gang of bold vervet monkeys, whose antics include snatching any available food off picnic tables and jumping into any open windows of safari vehicles, and thumbing through the pages of a book my daughters’, Grace and Ellie, have sitting on a bench, which they assure me is a learning moment for these curious ancestors of ours.
Vervet monkeys… cute but tricky! Mark Gunlogson photo
Like many places where Mountain Madness operates trips, there are certain shifts in weather patterns. Here, the “short rains” of November have arrived later but, because of the rain, the landscape is as green as can be. Our drive yesterday around the Tarangire River provided us with sightings of impalas, lions, water bucks, dik diks, banded mongoose, baboons, dwarf mongoose, eland, steenbok, silver-backed jackal, wart hog, squirrel, zebras, ostriches, and probably close to 200 elephants. The numbers of birds seen are too many to mention, but among them two stand out unique to Africa, the Secretary Bird and the Ground Hornbill, both hunters that sort of waddle their way through the open woodlands in search of prey, sometimes up to 12 miles in a day. Ben explains the tactics of the Secretary Bird, such as catching a snake, then flying high and dropping the snake multiple times before eating it. Like the complex web of life found in the Amazon Basin, all things have their place and adaptation here.
Elephants and the Tarangire River. Mark Gunlogson photo
A lion king waking up from a nap. Mark Gunlogson photo
A pack of banded mongoose. Mark Gunlogson photo
Our day ended up at the Tarangire Safari Lodge where the girls cooled off in the pool and the adults excercised what I call our “veranda rights,” sipping on a sundowner and taking in the views of Kilimanjaro’s cousin, the now snow-capped Mount Meru, and soaking in a landscape covered with acacias and baobab trees, all while elephants meandered through the grasses happily foraging among the greenness. Not a bad first day of safari at all.
Veranda at the Tarangire Lodge. Mark Gunlogson photo
The kids cooling off in the pool. Mark Gunlogson photo
We soon travel to the Serengeti where we enjoy the Mountain Madness private camp, which is situated more than 10 miles away from the nearest lodge. Here, we have a day of traditional safari before heading out on a walking safari, complete with a couple of rifles to safeguard our exploration of the area, a place only a few outfitters are allowed in and no vehicles, other than our support jeep. More in a week or so!
~ MM Owner Mark Gunlogson